The Insider

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July 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senators are putting on quite a show as floor debate on an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill that would end F-22A production at 187 aircraft has concluded.

In his closing argument, the Raptor's strongest supporter, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), said: “The folks at the Pentagon are watching this vote. The White House is watching this vote. The Chinese are watching this vote!”

The Republican, whose state is home to Lockheed Martin's F-22A final assembly facility, also went on to name several Chinese aerospace companies that are developing fifth-generation fighter jets for Beijing.

Senators are voting now. Stand by.

-- Marcus Weisgerber
 

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July 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

That's how President Obama framed the fight over continued funding of the Air Force plane in comments from the Rose Garden, thanking the Senate for passing an amendment to block additional spending for the F-22 in fiscal year 2010.

Long before I took this office, I argued that meeting our greatest challenges would require not only changing policies in Washington, but changing the way we do business in Washington. I also promised that part of that change would be eliminating waste and inefficiency in our defense projects -- reform that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will do whatever it takes to defend the American people, which is why we’ve increased our funding for our military, and why we will always give our men and women in uniform the equipment and support that they need to get the job done.

But I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on outdated and unnecessary defense projects to keep this nation secure. That's why I’ve taken steps to greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts. That's why I've signed overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to limit cost overruns on weapons systems before they spiral out of control. And that's why I'm grateful that the Senate just voted against an additional $1.75 billion to buy F-22 fighter jets that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need.

At a time when we’re fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this would have been an inexcusable waste of money. Every dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can’t spend to support our troops, or prepare for future threats, or protect the American people. Our budget is a zero-sum game, and if more money goes to F-22s, it is our troops and citizens who lose.

So I want to thank Secretary Gates for his outspoken leadership on this issue. I want to thank every member of Congress who put politics aside to do what’s right for the American military and the American taxpayers. And I particularly want to thank Senators Levin and McCain for helping to make this happen.

-- Jason Sherman

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July 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A vote on an amendment introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) that would remove funding for Lockheed Martin F-22A purchases in the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill remains in limbo.

At the current time, no vote has been scheduled; however, reports indicate Senators could vote on the amendment at some point this evening. Right now the chamber is debating a separate hate crimes amendment.

The top Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee introduced the amendment a week ago, but, the measure was withdrawn so lawmakers could debate the hate crimes amendment.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) -- whose constituently includes the Raptor final assembly facility -- inserted $1.75 billion into the FY-10 defense authorization bill to buy seven aircraft. Authorization and appropriations panels in the House also have included money for more F-22As in mark-ups of their respective FY-10 defense bills, despite a stern veto threat from the White House.

At the same time, a group of Democrats -- including Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry -- have said they would support future F-22A purchases. Several of the Raptor's mission systems -- including its electronic warfare suite; communication, navigation and identification low-observable apertures; multi-spectral countermeasures; and stores management system -- are built by BAE Systems just across the Massachusetts border in Nashua, NH.

Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued his argument against buying more F-22As, noting the Lockheed-run F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will generate tens-of-thousands of jobs over the next two years.

“What I have not heard is a substantive reason for adding more aircraft in terms of our strategic needs,” Gates said during a briefing this afternoon at the Pentagon.

-- Marcus Weisgerber
 

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July 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Chicago last night defending the Obama administration's efforts to curb spending on programs like the F-22A Raptor and missile defense.

"We stand at a crossroads," he told the Economic Club of Chicago, adding:

We simply cannot risk continuing down the same path -- where our spending and program priorities are increasingly divorced from the very real threats of today and the growing ones of tomorrow. These threats demand that all of our nation’s leaders rise above the politics and parochialism that have too often plagued considerations of our nation's defense -- from industry to interest groups, from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. The time has come to draw a line and take a stand against the business-as-usual approach to national defense. We must all fulfill our obligation to the American people to ensure that our country remains safe and strong. Just as our men and women in uniform are doing their duty to this end, we in Washington must now do ours.

Gates reiterated the administration's promise to veto any defense legislation that includes funding for more F-22As.

"The reaction from parts of Washington has been predictable," he said, adding:

The most substantive criticism is that completing the F-22 program means we are risking the future of U.S. air supremacy. To assess this risk, it is worth looking at real-world potential threat and assessing the capabilities that other countries have now or in the pipeline.

Consider that by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 of the most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful of comparable aircraft for the Chinese. Nonetheless, some portray this scenario as a dire threat to America's national security.

Consequently:

If the Department of Defense can’t figure out a way to defend the United States on a budget of more than half a trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by buying a few more ships and planes.

-- John Liang

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July 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Tiimes are tough all over. Boeing and SAIC, lead contractors on the Future Combat Systems program, announced today they are taking steps to cut personnel in the wake of the Pentagon's decision to cancel the FCS ground vehicles.

From Boeing's statement:

Due to the decision by the Pentagon directing the U.S. Army to restructure the FCS program, as well as related funding reductions anticipated in fiscal year 2010, Boeing and its partner SAIC will be reducing their combined work force by approximately 30 percent. Boeing will begin issuing 60-day advance layoff notices to its employees today, July 17, at several sites nationwide. Approximately 70 Boeing employees will receive notices today. Additional notices are expected to be issued on July 31.

Boeing and SAIC are committed to preserving as many jobs as possible for these valued, highly skilled employees and the companies are taking aggressive steps to lessen the impact of the funding reductions. These steps include making every effort to redeploy FCS personnel to other programs within Boeing and SAIC, as well as reassessing contract labor requirements. The companies will work with affected employees to help them through this transition by offering career services and other assistance.

Boeing and SAIC are committed to working closely with their Army customer to implement required changes to the program in a timely and efficient manner. They will continue to support the Army in delivering these important networked capabilities to soldiers as soon as possible.

Much more on FCS can be found on our Combat Vehicles page, and in next week's Inside the Army.

-- Dan Dupont

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July 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has tapped Tom Ehrhard -- an unmanned aircraft expert, strategic analyst and retired Air Force colonel -- to be a special assistant, according to a July 16 internal Air Force announcement. Ehrhard returns to the Pentagon after a stint as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. His last post in the Pentagon was as military assistant to Andrew Marshall, director of Net Assessment.

Ehrhard likely will deal with many familiar faces on his return to the Pentagon, particularly former colleagues from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who now hold a variety of influential posts, including: Robert Work, the under secretary of the Navy; Michael Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities; Andrew Krepinevich, the CSBA president who was named last month to the Defense Policy Board by Defense Secretary Robert Gates; and Steven Kosiak, who oversees the Pentagon's budget at the White House Office of Management and Budget. -- Jason Sherman

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July 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still trying to figure out how the U.S. defense bureaucracy must change to account for the fact that potential adversaries can easily and inexpensively arm themselves with commercial technology.

The technology need not be sophisticated to be effective, as recent operations have shown. In the case of improvised explosive devices, violent extremists used cell phones, garage door openers and other devices to serve as crude triggers.

The amount of effort the IED threat has sparked at DOD, monetarily and organizationally, has been astounding. Many officials have described the fight as a true poster child for "asymmetric warfare" -- the kind of conflict defense leaders believe is here to stay.

In recent years, officials have kicked around several suggestions for how to react. The discussion has centered around two essential questions: Does DOD need one organization in charge of rapidly fielding asymmetric countermeasures, or does it need many?

Opponents of the consolidation option fear the gains in fielding speed generated by one organization in charge could quickly evaporate as that organization grows in size and bureaucratic overhead.

Those advocating a centralized rapid-fielding shop argue the current multitude of offices, initiatives and programs produces too much overlap and misses out on potential synergies.

A new Defense Science Board report could provide ammunition for those favoring a single organization in charge. As we reported yesterday, the document proposes a Rapid Acquisition and Fielding Agency (RAFA), whose three-star director would report directly to the Pentagon acquisition chief.

The idea, and even the acronym, may sound familiar to our readers. In a separate DSB study, published in the spring and titled "Capability Surprise," panel members called for a Rapid Capability Fielding Office, or RCFO, with similar goals.

University of Maryland Professor Jacques Gansler, a former DOD acquisition chief and frequent Pentagon consultant, was task force chairman for the DSB study released this week. He was a member of the "Institutional Process Change" working group during the panel's study of  capability surprise, as we noted in February.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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July 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition executive, met with CEOs from more than a dozen defense firms to break bread last week, the Boston Globe reports today. His message: Let's get along, OK?

I am not a believer that industry is an enemy of the government. That's how we arm ourselves in this country. We don't have a government arms industry. We buy from private industry. We can't do it without industry. I just had dinner Thursday night with the CEOs of all the top 15 defense companies and I said that to them. I want to have an open, non-antagonistic relationship where we work together. If we can align our interests so I get done what I need to do for the warfighter and the taxpayer and you get done what you need for your business. We can't always do that, but we're not always headed in opposite directions either.

-- Jason Sherman

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July 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Every year, minority lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee ask the Defense Department to produce a list of programs that did not get full funding in the department's annual budget request. This year, however, Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to shake up that long-standing budget ritual by asserting his prerogative, as Pentagon chief, to review any unfunded requirements lists the services might prepare before transmitting them to Congress.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction program co-managed by the Defense and Energy departments has not been included in past unfunded priorities lists, but at least one lawmaker would like to see it on the list.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing today on threats from weapons of mass destruction, Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) asked Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Michael Nacht what the CTR program could do with additional funds above and beyond what is vetted by DOD and DOE. Here's the ensuing exchange:

NACHT: I think additional funds could help, but . . . we've been very careful not to go to the committee or the Congress for requests for funds that we know we can't use effectively. . . . So we don't have a list, really, of unfunded priorities . . . but if you're urging us to do it, we could develop it.

MARSHALL: That would be great if you would develop it; we may not fund it, but it would be nice to know what additional steps -- where would you go from where you are right now.

NACHT: Sir, we'll follow up on that with ((DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration)).

-- John Liang
 

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July 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

One and a half years after the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act became law, defense officials today published an interim rule to implement a provision in the legislation limiting the use of lead system integrators in major weapon programs.

The concept of lead system integrators, or LSIs, has been under fire for some years because some lawmakers believe companies in these roles unduly benefit from being both the overseers and the executors of Defense Department programs.

As mandated in the legislation, today's rule covers two phases. Beginning with the enactment date of the legislation, Jan. 28, 2008, DOD is no longer allowed to use LSIs for systems that have progressed into the low-rate initial production stage. The defense secretary also must find that the use of an LSI is in department's best interest.

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2010, DOD officials may only award LSI-type contracts to companies performing lead system integrator "functions" for major programs before Jan. 28, 2008.

The issue of LSIs is also addressed in a provision of the FY-07 defense authorization legislation. It states that "no entity performing lead system integrator functions in the acquisition of a major system by the Department of Defense may have any direct financial interest in the development or construction of any individual system or element of any system of systems."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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July 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A vote on Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) amendment to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill that would remove funding for F-22A purchases has been delayed until tomorrow, at the earliest.

Senate Armed Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) had wanted the chamber to reach a verdict on the amendment by noon today; however, all votes have been suspended to accommodate those lawmakers attending the Major League Baseball All Star Game in St. Louis this evening.

McCain, the committee's ranking member, introduced the amendment during floor debate on the authorization bill yesterday. President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen sent letters to Levin and McCain urging them to remove the Raptor procurement money from the bill.

The House and Senate Armed Services committees have passed authorization bills including money to purchase more  of the fifth-generation fighters; Obama has threatened to veto any defense spending bill that includes money for more F-22As. (And the president will be in St. Louis tonight, too, throwing out the game's first pitch.)

Levin said he is trying to schedule a vote on McCain's amendment tomorrow.

-- Marcus Weisgerber

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July 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Oshkosh announced today that its win in the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle competition will mean a significant boost in its employee count.

“Oshkosh is hiring between 300 and 500 employees for its defense facilities in Wisconsin and recalling 550 to 650 JLG employees, primarily in Pennsylvania for JLG Industries, Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation company,” a company announcement says.

The Pentagon on June 30 awarded Oshkosh a nearly $1.1 billion contract for 2,244 of the vehicles, intended for Afghanistan. However, a senior program official has said the military intends to increase the contract by the end of July to include the 3,000 more vehicles needed to meet its total requirement of 5,244 trucks.

All of the vehicles are expected to be complete by March 2010.

In today's statement, the company said the 300 to 500 new hires “will work in Oshkosh, WI, where there are four defense production facilities. The 550 to 650 JLG employee callbacks will be at JLG facilities primarily in Pennsylvania.”

-- Marjorie Censer

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July 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

 Historic health care reform will have to wait at least until the fall, according to House Energy & Commerce chair Henry Waxman.

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July 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Don't forget about the industrial base.

So says the Aerospace Industries Association, in a report released today as the Defense Department puts together the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review.

The report, "The Unseen Cost: Industrial Base Consequences of Defense Strategy Choices," states that a "significant gap has developed between DOD's view of industry as an always-ready supplier of military capabilities and how industry actually makes decisions on what capabilities to offer."

Consequently, the AIA paper offers six recommendations to make sure the defense industrial base is considered in DOD's strategic planning efforts:

Institutionalize defense industrial base considerations into strategic processes, such as the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and future QDRs.

Better account for defense industrial base considerations in the acquisition and planning, programming, budgeting and execution (PPBE) processes.

Restore the Secretary of Defense/industry CEO forum.

Continually assess the industrial base from a more strategic perspective.

Reinvigorate congressional oversight/review of defense industrial base issues.

Ensure that the military services and industry focus research and development on competitive design and development and efficient production.

As AIA Assistant Vice President for Defense Policy J.J. Gertler told reporters earlier today:

The department has to understand that if you're shutting off a capability . . . that you may want down the road, a certain decision -- and it can be a high-level strategy decision -- may make that capability go away or require a very lengthy re-start. And what this paper ultimately is . . . is a plea for rationality and consciousness in making those decisions with a full set of information.

-- John Liang

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July 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency want to be able to spot nuclear materials from far away -- very far away.

In a July 10 request for information, agency officials said they are looking for technologies capable of detecting "special nuclear materials" at a distance of 5 kilometers or more.

The idea is to detect and locate "containerized" special nuclear material, either stationary or on the move, in "outdoor environments," the RFI reads.

"The overall time to detect need not necessarily occur in a short time frame; however the integration time for readout should be on the order of minutes (less than or equal to 10 min)," it adds.

-- Sebastian Sprenger